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Common infections after a hysterectomy

Almost all women experience the side effect of having an infection after they have had a hysterectomy, and the most common infections after a hysterectomy are:

• Urinary tract infection
• Infection of any abdominal wounds.

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Abdominal hysterectomy wound infections

According to Professor Patrick Duff, infections of the wound occur in approximately 3% of abdominal hysterectomies. Research suggests that the risk is increased by obesity, diabetes, immunodeficiency disorder, use of systemic corticosteroids, smoking, wound hematoma, and pre-existing infection such as pelvic inflammatory disease. Most wound infections take the form of what’s called an incisional abscess or cellulitis.

Typical signs of infection in the wound include:

• Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the site of any abdominal wound
• Red streaks or lines leading from the wound
• Pus and discharge draining from the wound
• Foul smells around the site of the wound
• Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin
• High fever and raised temperature of 38ºC (100.4ºF) plus

Urinary tract infections

There are two types of urinary tract infection, also known as acute cystitis or bladder infection. An upper urinary tract infection involves the kidneys and ureters. A lower urinary tract infection usually involves the bladder and urethra and it is easy for one infection to spread to the other area. They are most commonly caused by the use of catheters following surgery.

Typical signs of a urinary tract infection include:

• A burning or itchy feeling when you urinate
• An increased need to urinate, even though little comes out when you do
• Pain or pressure in your back or lower abdomen
• Cloudy, dark, bloody, or strange-smelling urine
• An unusual or foul smell
• Feeling tired or shaky
• Low, dull backache around the kidney area
• High temperature of 38ºC (100.4ºF) plus
• Shivering
• Nausea (feeling sick) and/ or vomiting.

Treatment and self help

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms then it would be advisable to consult your GP. Treatment for both types of infection is usually with a course of antibiotics. Infections in an abdominal wound are often treated by draining the wound, covering it with a dressing which is bathed and changed at regular intervals until the infection subsides. You can help prevent infections in the wound by following the advice the hospital gives you about wound care.

Taking over the counter painkillers can help to reduce any aches and pains associated with urinary tract infections. Drinking plenty of water will help to reduce the effect of a urinary tract infection. Wearing cotton knickers and washing regularly with mild soap and water can also help to reduce discomfort. Some women may benefit from drinking cranberry juice or taking tablets with extract of cranberry as these have been shown to help prevent recurring infections. However, women taking anticoagulants such as Warfarin should avoid taking cranberrry juice or tablets as it may increase the risk of bleeeding.

(Image: Dried cranberries2 by Tiia Monto – Own work. Wikimedia Commons)

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Linda Parkinson-Hardman

Transformational coach and founder of the Hysterectomy Association. Professionally I'm an information scientist who specialises in the adoption and engagement of digital technologies. I am a writer and author of nine books to date, and I've edited a further seven; phew what a lot for a Thursday afternoon :-)

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